down angle photography of red clouds and blue sky

As It Used to Be

by Vince Amlin | published on May 1, 2021

In that day I will restore David’s fallen shelter – I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins – and will rebuild it as it used to be. – Amos 9:11 (NIV)

I haven’t sat in traffic like this in a year. The GPS shows a red thread stretching between me and my destination. I’m driving to our church president’s new house for our monthly check-in, and its rush hour in Chicago.

I’m late. I haven’t been late in a year.

Last month on Zoom someone suggested we could meet in person next time. We’d be vaccinated. It would be fun.

Now I’m driving an hour and a half one way for a meeting that we’ve gotten down to 30 minutes since we went virtual. My palms are sweating from the social anxiety. Then I remember I should have brought a housewarming gift. 

I didn’t even think of it. I haven’t been in another house for a year.

Until now, I would have read this passage from Amos as good news. Return from exile. The city rebuilt “as it used to be.”

Now I know it’s more complicated.

There are plenty of things that were bad about the way things used to be, for one. But even the good things, the things I’ve missed … am I ready for a return?

Our half-hour meeting balloons to five hours round trip. I show up empty-handed. I am awkward (perhaps as it used to be).

And as the evening stretches out, and we plan what’s next for our congregation, and we eat and drink, and my face starts to hurt from laughing, I realize: I haven’t felt like this in a year.

It’s good. The inconvenience. The inefficiency. The effort to be near one another. The spending of our lives on each other. It’s worth it.

About the Author
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.

God of return, give me peace and energy to welcome back the good things.


What is God Calling you to DO?

Recently, I attended a Conference Clergy meeting and one of the new Pastors in our conference shared with us thatevery member of the church must commit to do something in the church.” As I reflected on his comments I thought about my home church in Oakland, CA. It is the same. Once you complete new members class then you commit to serve in some capacity with a team, committee, board, or Ministry in the church.

I am not recommending that we implement the same requirements at Wehoucc, but it recalls the question; What Is God Calling you to Do at Wehoucc? Or to rephrase the question, in what capacity will you serve at Wehoucc?

The Pandemic has created opportunities for us to serve from across the country because of the virtual meeting space. Let’s be honest, Traffic can be stressful in Los Angeles County. Now you can participate from the comfort of your living room. Personally, I LOVE face to face gatherings and meetings because it’s more personal and exciting.

We need you and want you! Not just your voice and vote, but your participation!


Pastor Janice


John 15:1-8 The Message Translation [MSG]

 “I am the Real Vine, and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”


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